No one cares much about the AL East today. All the action’s in the NL. Julian Tavarez gave up three in the first, and the Sox may have a pretty good lineup on paper, but so far appear to be going through the motions. 3-0 Twins in the third. Comment if you care.
Sunday, September 30th, 2007
Jorge Posada is managing this game. Pete Abe reports that Mike Mussina is his pitching coach (predicted exhange between Mussina and Sean Henn at the mound: "Sean, who do you think you are?! Pavano?! Get this guy out!") and that Jeter will be his bench coach as soon as he leaves the game. I can see Posada as a major league manager one day, and the crafty Mussina as a pitching coach. But I don’t see Jeter as a future bench coach. Actually, I can’t envision Jeter as an old man.
Anyway, this is the last game of the season. Certain pitchers could be pitching for a spot on the post-season roster, so I guess that’s the game’s draw. Otherwise, I’ll be checking out the NL, rooting for Willie, my favorite player growing up (check out the new Authors page at the top left), and the Mets to survive.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight months since pitchers and catchers began reporting to training camps, finally providing those elusive bits of baseball news we”d all craved since both our teams ended their seasons so disappointingly.
Today is now the final day of the regular season. The Sox and Yanks are going to the playoffs, and the Sox are guaranteed home-field advantage through the World Series, assuming they get that far. This is the first time since 1946 the Sox will end the season with the best record in baseball and only the fifth time in 107 seasons (1903, 1912, 1915). As such, the Sox chose which playoff schedule to play. Unsurprisingly, they took the extra off-day, allowing Tim Wakefield to pitch out of the bullpen and giving Josh Beckett and (probably) Curt Schilling two starts if the ALDS foes five games.
The Yankees and Indians will play the shorter series, potentially forcing the use of a fourth starter, but if you think in a 2-1 series the Indians won’t turn to C.C. Sabathia on short rest (ditto the Yanks and Chien-Ming Wang), you’re quite mistaken.
The Angels appear to be the better team to face. Along with having struggled in September, John Lackey/Kelvim Escobar is not nearly as intimidating a tandem as Sabathia/Fausto Carmona — though both should be getting Cy Young votes this season and could easily put the Sox in a hole. Hopefully, the Sox can avoid the strange run of 11 straight playoff losses after winning the division (kind of a silly stat, considering that in 1988, 1990 and 1995 the Sox didn’t even win 90 games while their first-round opponents won 100).
One game left, and it matters not. All eyes not focused on the National League theatrics are already turned to next week.
Saturday, September 29th, 2007
Well, that’s over.
Jonathan Papelbon has presumably taken the Bud Light box off his head and retrieved his pants (we can’t say the same here at YFSF). The Sox have two games left, and one small bit of unfinished business to take care of — baseball’s best record.
All Boston has to do is win tonight and tomorrow, as they hold the tiebreaker over Cleveland. They’ll start with Tim Wakefield, still seeking that elusive 17th win, which would tie a career high. He’s looked better the last two starts, and the optimist in us says Wakefield’s setting himself up for another four-start hot streak, beginning tonight. That sure would be nice. He faces Carlos Silva and the Twinkies.
Well, it’s not quite 1966-67, when the Red Sox picked up 20 games and went from last (ninth at the time) to first. But the 2007 Red Sox are a win away from improving on their 2006 performance by 10 games, and have vaulted from third place to being assured of being in first place for all but eight of the first 12 games of 2007.
That’s not an insignificant accomplishment. In the American League, only the Cleveland Indians improved by a greater margin. Some might even call such a turnaround redemptive ;-).
We all know why the Sox have been so much better this season — better and healthier starters, a stronger bullpen and a healthier lineup. But here are the top five specific factors I see as contributing the most to the Sox’ turnaround.
No. 1: Sox acquire Eric Gagne at the deadline
Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, who tonight (aided by the Baltimore Orioles) captured their first division crown in over a decade. Though there is much hard work to be done in the coming weeks, for a night the boys should celebrate their accomplishment. Anyone who thinks that the players cared not a whit about winning the division should have seen the Olde Towne Team romping over the infield, champagne bottles spraying players and fans alike, a momentary release of pressure before the high-stakes games start next week.
Way to go, guys.
Friday, September 28th, 2007
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part
The Yankees are back in Baltimore for a set to finish out the season, facing Jon Leicester tonight to introduce the last of the reggalar action. Mike Mussina gets the rock for the Bombers. If he continues to hurl the way he has in his last three starts, he will have made a strong case to be one of the starters in the Post, especially considering Rocket’s game leg. Pettitte and Igawa will also see a turn on the bump this weekend.
The Red Sox magic number is 2 as they send Daisuke against Kevin Slowey and the TCTs at Fenway. Johnny Damon reminded reporters that the Yankees still have a “mathematical chance” at the division. It is a funny image that is conjured when one imagines Damon doing math. We kid because we love. Maybe the wc/division in the Beast will be settled tonight, maybe not. It seems a rather tranquil time for the AL, especially considering that the Phillies, the Mets, the Cubbies, the Beermakers, the Snakes, the Pods, and the Rox all yet do not know their post-season fate.
Oh baby dont it feel like heaven right now? Lineups, comments follow.
Apparently, the Red Sox thought they were playing in the Metrodome last night; how else to explain the futility they exhibited, particularly in the ninth? Likewise, Josh Beckett could have all but sealed the Cy Young with a 21st victory that clinched the division, to boot. Instead, he made us wonder if the Sox might not be better starting their series on the road.
Never mind that. Today’s a new day. Two games up, three to play. Still a comfortable margin, as the Sox’ destiny is entirely within their hands. Win two, and they’re in. So let’s start tonight.
Tonight, it’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has not been good in about a month, against Kevin Slowey, who’s given up just one run in each of his last three starts.
The Sox, meanwhile are putting perhaps the best starting lineup they’ve had all season out there — Manny and Youks back, with Ellsbury in center. A 2008 Opening Day preview, perhaps?
Oh, and Clay Buchholz is down for the season. Fatigue. Based on the Papelbon experience, this is obviously a smart move — and it makes one wonder whether the situation might be worse had the Sox begun relying on Buchholz heavily in an eighth inning role down the stretch.
Thursday, September 27th, 2007
The Sox look to reduce their magic number to 1 tonight against the Minnesota Twins. With a little offense, some pitching, and help from Scott Kazmir and the Devil Rays, we could have the first division crown for the Red Sox since 1995, a tremendous achievement for sure.
Use this as your game thread for commentary.
Tim Brown makes his case for Josh Beckett as this year’s AL Cy Young winner. He also picks Peavy for the NL, as if there was another choice. But here’s how he bends it for Beckett:
A) The Sox made the postseason
B) Beckett’s individual comparative stats are significantly better in several categories
C) He’s got ahelluvalotta wins
He then goes on to cite a bunch of stats to make C.C. look like the obvious choice, but inexplicably he doesn’t make that choice. Let’s be clear; it is hard to argue a strong case against Beckett winning the CY this year, but if writers are going to go down the same road of farcical logic as Brown, I’ll have to chuck the CY on the same pile as the Gold Glove, which is too bad, because I thought this was one award the writers usually get right.
Quite a few members of the Yankees sporting hangovers, is our guess, and who can blame them after their playoff-clinching extravaganza last night. Joe got emotional. Alex declared NY his home, Moose kicked it with the coaches, Robi & Melky sprayed everything and everyone with champagne. A milestone we bring to attention: last night the Captain scored his 100th run. He’s done that in every season of his career except for the 2003 campaign, when he lost about 30 games to his shoulder injury. In these Sabermetric times we have a tendency to downplay “counting” stats, but this is a pretty amazing feat to accomplish over 12 years.
Who plays tonite? The Yanks face the always difficult Scott Kazmir, and I suspect a mellow Joe will see fit to spare some/most/all of the regulars of that displeasure. If The Franchise wants a win tonight, he’s gonna have to bring it.
Real name: Mark Lamster
Year of birth: 1969
Home town: New York, NY
Now residing: Brooklyn, NY
Fondest baseball memory: Celebrating the 1996 World Series victory with my future wife, old friends, and hundreds of other diehard fans on the corner of Third Avenue and 87th Street, outside the bar where the Yankee players had gathered post-game.
Comment: Read my book, Spalding’s World Tour, an Editor’s Choice selection of the New York Times Book Review.
Real name: Andy
Year of birth: 1968
Home town: Newton, MA
Now residing: Brooklyn, NY, with wife Nicole, son Isaac (3), and daughter Alice (.7)
Favorite player at age 10: Pudge Fisk
Fondest baseball memory: Two of them, in fact, stand out (there are probably 20 that I could mention, and there are many that I hesitate to omit but will for succinctness). The first will probably surprise, and I fear it might reinforce the stereotype of Sox fans as masochists and happier when losing, but that’s not the case (I want nothing less than for the Sox to lose). Freshman year, October, Sox blow Game Six to the Mets, I can’t explain how vivid is that memory of lying on my bed in my tiny dorm room with a cold towel over my head while bawling my eyes out, even to this day nearly 21 years later. It was a formative moment in my Soxfan existence. Second moment is the exact opposite, and somewhat predictable: Keith Foulke tossing the ball to Doug Mientkiewicz as I sit in darkness in my apartment with my newborn son, just 2 weeks old, sleeping next to me. I was also, for the record, bawling my eyes out.
Comment: I share the two most prevalent traits of my parents’ Soxfandom: my Mom’s more-than-intermittent hysteria (I get this in-game for the most part), my Dad’s quiet stoicism and belief in regressions to the mean, empiricism, and smart baseball. This is typically more on display before and after games.
Real name: Paul
Year of birth: 1982
Home town: New Haven, Conn.
Now residing: West Texas
Favorite player at age 10: Wade Boggs
Favorite baseball memory: Excepting the final eight games of the 2004 postseason, probably Sept. 6, 1997, when my dad took me to Fenway as he did about once every year. The seats were right behind home plate, the Sox won 10-2, and both Mo Vaughn and Nomar Garciaparra hit home runs. Tim Wakefield, the only member of the Sox still on the team who appeared in that game, got the win.
Comment: I have a wonderful and beautiful wife who doesn’t quite understand my obsession with baseball — but has been there through it since her traumatic induction during Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. We’ve been married since 2004 and our family to this point consists of two children: our cat Manny, age 2, and our dog Poppy (spelled like the lower, pronounced like the baseball god!), age 6 months. In real life, I’m a newspaper reporter, which is more fun than someone should be allowed to have at their job.
Real name: Nick (last name I can’t even pronounce)
Year of birth: 1977
Home town: New York City (Washington Heights)
Favorite player at age 10: Willie Randolph
Fondest baseball memory:There are so many, but I’ll go with the Aaron Boone home run. That was pretty good. That night I ended up hitting the streets to celebrate. I was living in Hamilton Heights at the time, which is a pro-Yankee neighborhood. The blocks were filled with people drinking and celebrating. I joined them. There were a lot of hugs, some dousings, just general happiness. Oh to regain that moment!
Comment: I am finishing up my master’s to become an elementary school teacher. I have been engaged now almost two years with the lovely Mandy-urban planner of the future- and we plan on getting married sometime this or next decade. We have been together for 9 years. She has no idea who Ron Villone is, but does know who Mariano Rivera is (go figure!). I am the middle brother of three. My older brother used to beat me up a lot. I used to beat my younger brother up a lot. My parents are hilarious space aliens who were put on this planet to communicate with each other and only each other. He is a theater professor. She is a librarian. We are a very dramatic and book-based family.
Real name: Michael Chan
What the heck is an attackgerbil? It’s an affectionate nod to Don Zimmer
email: michael at michaelchan dot org
Web site: michaelchan.org
Year of birth: 1969
Home town: Scottsville, NY
Now residing: Portland, OR
Favorite player at age 10: Willie Randolph
Fondest baseball memory: Donnie Baseball battling Dave Winfield for the batting title in ’84, but the harshest memory was in 1981, listening on the AM radio in bed with the covers over my head when Watson flew out to end the series. The next day, I stayed in bed, feeling truly sick. My mom asked me, "Are you really sick or are you just upset that the Yankees lost?" I replied, "What’s the difference?" Mom let me stay home that day. Thanks, Mom.
Comment: I grew up in a part of New York where one could easily end up an Orioles fan, but got hooked on the Yankees when I was five years old. I am father to a beautiful son, devoted partner to a fine lady, and dutiful servant to a large canine. I work with computers for a living when not writing/sweating on baseball or riding/sweating on bicycles/pianos/the links/skis.
John YF (Trisk)
Real name: John
Year of birth: 1975
Home town: Passaic County, New Jersey
Now residing: Bergen County, New Jersey
Favorite player at age 10: Donald Arthur Mattingly
Fondest baseball memory: As a fan, being at Game #7 of the ALCS in 2003. I had been there for other playoff/World Series games, but never had I seen the stadium that electric.
Comment: I grew up and still currently live in Northern New Jersey. The best part of living in North Jersey is it’s proximity to Yankee Stadium and recognizing all the local spots on The Sopranos. I went to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut where I majored in History. That is where I learned how to deal with Bostonians. I have been married to my wonderful wife since 2004. We have 1 son and another child on the way. We are also owned by a 3 year old English Bulldog named Shrek. As most of you know, I am also a high school baseball coach. I have had the privilege of doing so since I was 21 and I have loved every minute of it.
Real name: Shamil
Year of birth: 1972
Hometown: North Haledon, NJ
Now residing: Manhattan, NY with wife and 2 daugthers (21 months & 2 months – sleep is scarce…)
Favorite player at age 10: Bucky Dent. No good reason like a key HR in a Fenway game for instance…I just liked his name. Sadly, he was traded when I was 10.
Fondest baseball memory: Passing up adrenaline-pumping late-inning action, my highlight was something that didn’t happen. On Sunday, September 20th, 1998 sitting in mediocre seats at Camden Yards I happen to be the first person in our section to notice Cal Ripken’s name not listed in the starting line-ups when they were posted. A buzz started to go up from the crowd once the game started and built to a lasting ovation when the image of Ripken – sitting in the dugout – was flashed on the big screen after the first out was recorded. Jeter stepped out of the batter’s box, the Yankees came out of the dugout and they all joined in the ovation. After the game was official and just before the 6th inning, Ripken came out and walked the outfield, shaking fan’s hands. Being a Lou Gehrig lover (hence the IronHorse tag), I admired the record Ripken had just set and the unassuming, unannounced manner in which he brought the streak to an end. Living in DC then, I had just wanted to catch the season’s last Yankee game at Camden Yards, but was rewarded with a lot more.
Comment: I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last 3 days and…oh, sorry… that’s been taken. I love sports but increasingly find myself following only the baseball season closely (and occasionally other sports’ post-seasons or any golf tournament feauring Tiger Woods). Work takes me overseas about 1/3 of the year and beyond connecting with family, nothing brings me home more when I am in faraway lands than listening to the mlb.com radio feed of Yankee games, even if it is John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Oh yeah…I am having trouble adjusting to a world in which the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry actually swings back and forth. There. I said it.
The caption to the photo currently at the top of NYT.com: “It is difficult to imagine a more complete collapse than the one the U.S. suffered today in the Women’s World Cup.“
Hmm. Funny, I can imagine one right in their own backyard!
On June 28th of this year, I wrote the following:
Dear fellow Yanks fans,
It is over.
All the best,
This, my friends, is how you execute a perfect reverse jinx. Make it succinct (anyone else think this letter has a Hemingwayesque quality. Think about all the words left unsaid. The letter’s true meaning can be found in the gaps of silence behind the stated words) so it has that quality of fate that cannot be reversed.
From that moment on the Yanks have gone something like 82-15 (thanks, Baseball Reference!). There”s no need to thank me. I was just in the right place at the right time.